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kimsophia
November 15th, 2014, 12:48 AM
A couple other threads in the quilting sections reminded me of this topic. My mom used to joke that living through the Great Depression made it difficult for her, my grandma and my aunts to throw anything away. I remember a giant stash of baby food jars in grandma's basement. There hadn't been a baby food eating grandchild for years. I think it lead to a "hoard to survive" or "you never know if you might need that thing" mentality in them. I think the abundance of the 1960's and 70's were like a liberation to them...but my mom died when I was 17 so I didn't get to ask her enough questions.

To anyone else is interested in that time in history, have you read any good books or do you have any family memories to share? Books I like are Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm during the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish and a couple of cookbooks, Farm Recipes and Food Secrets from the Norske Nook by Helen Myhre with Mona Vold, and Prairie Kitchen Sampler by E. Mae Fritz. The last two are a combination of recipes and personal history.

I'd love to hear from you!

Kim in Iowa

Ginny B
November 15th, 2014, 01:33 AM
Oh, I know the "you never know when you might need that" train of thought. My grandmother was very much a product of the Depression times and was great at "making do" and knowing how to get by when things might be tough. My grandmother lived with us (my mom, dad, brother, sister and myself), my aunt lived upstairs and other relatives lived close enough to be there for supper on any given night. Well, on some of those nights when there were extra mouths to feed -- or there were only just so many chicken cutlets to go around for our normal #, she made something that she called her "Special". Well, we all wanted some of it because it was "special". Of course, as we grew up, we realized it was just bread crumbs mixed in with egg and milk and fried up like the chicken cutlets and added to our plates so we would have less chicken but we had the "special" so we were happy and full.

I know the Depression was a terrible time all around but from the stories my grandmother and aunts would tell, it did seem to be a time that also reinforced the ties that bound the family together. And it carried on well past that horrendous time.

Quiltfreestyle
November 15th, 2014, 02:29 AM
My grandmother wouldn't talk about the Depression, she was of the mindset that she never talked about bad times. I gathered from the little she said, that her childhood wasn't pleasant. All she would ever say about the Depression was she would never eat rice or beans again. To my knowledge she never did.
My father in law, on the other hand, used to tell lots of stories about those times. He grew up in South Boston, the youngest of three children. His dad was an Irish cop who lost his job when all the cops went on strike. He never worked steady again except as a fiddle player in Irish bars. His mother support everyone working at Filene's. Dad & his sisters worked after school.tomake a little extra. He used to gloat that he could wear clothes from the boys department well into his 20's. He loved to find a good bargain. Like many others he was a "use it up, wear it out, make do or do without" kind of person.
My boys loved to hear about his childhood & early life. We all miss him so much since he's been gone..

stationarymom
November 15th, 2014, 03:16 AM
My MIL and her siblings all survived that time some were worse than others.They all kept anything they ever owned.My MIL would have all of her kids bring anything that had a upc symbol on it that might go to our trash over to her,so she could combine them and get things free from companies.In the house that my MIL lived in and grew up in there was a nail on the wall that they had to use to
hang their tea bag on so others could also have a cup of tea from the one bag.

dwil23
November 15th, 2014, 09:24 AM
I haven't read all the replies yet - and I am looking forward to reading them later. My parents were children of the depression, Dad born in 1917 and Mom in 1922. Dad lived in town and Mom lived on her grandparents orange grove. I heard many stories about how they both did without, but I think, overall, they were both had very happy childhoods. They didn't know what they didn't have. Sadly, I think today's excesses are because those who for whatever reason felt they were slighted during that time, felt the need to give their children more than what they had, and maybe what they were missing was not things, but happiness. Today "we have it all", but so many are so unhappy (and ungrateful).

kimsophia
November 15th, 2014, 10:08 AM
I agree, Donna.

Carlie Wolf
November 15th, 2014, 10:10 AM
I remember several stories from relatives or in laws about the depression. I remember one saying that when they bought toilet paper they would always separate the two layers and reroll them so they would have more. My grandfather was a cop (Irish too) in Weehawken NJ (fortunately he had a job) and it was felt that they did "fairly well" since he had a job. He had 5 kids to feed and they had a "railroad" apartment. I remember my grandmother saying twice a year they would get a barrel and fill it with clothes and things and have it shipped to relatives in Newfoundland because they were in more dire straights than my grandmother was. I do recall that she continue shipping a barrel twice a year well into the 50's. I recall the "barrel" and we use to look around for clothes that were ok to put in there. Amazing since there were 5 daughters (sisters) in our family and we always wore hand me downs. I remember hearing a lot of expressions that were mentioned above. I remember another relative talking about how sometimes they had to eat in the basement with the small windows covered and only a candle late at night because they didn't want the neighbors to know that they had food to eat. While they shared when they could they sometimes didn't have enough to feed their own children. An Uncle in law that I adored used to talk about when the government confiscated the gold from everyone and as a replacement gave them devalued dollars only to increase the value of the gold afterward. He never trusted the government or the banks after that. To the day he died he only put enough in the bank to pay his monthly bills and hid the rest. His wife was the same way and she worked for a bank! I remember other relatives hiding any extra money they had in mattresses, taped to the creases of the inside of closets etc.

kimsophia
November 15th, 2014, 07:46 PM
I remember several stories from relatives or in laws about the depression. I remember one saying that when they bought toilet paper they would always separate the two layers and reroll them so they would have more. My grandfather was a cop (Irish too) in Weehawken NJ (fortunately he had a job) and it was felt that they did "fairly well" since he had a job. He had 5 kids to feed and they had a "railroad" apartment. I remember my grandmother saying twice a year they would get a barrel and fill it with clothes and things and have it shipped to relatives in Newfoundland because they were in more dire straights than my grandmother was. I do recall that she continue shipping a barrel twice a year well into the 50's. I recall the "barrel" and we use to look around for clothes that were ok to put in there. Amazing since there were 5 daughters (sisters) in our family and we always wore hand me downs. I remember hearing a lot of expressions that were mentioned above. I remember another relative talking about how sometimes they had to eat in the basement with the small windows covered and only a candle late at night because they didn't want the neighbors to know that they had food to eat. While they shared when they could they sometimes didn't have enough to feed their own children. An Uncle in law that I adored used to talk about when the government confiscated the gold from everyone and as a replacement gave them devalued dollars only to increase the value of the gold afterward. He never trusted the government or the banks after that. To the day he died he only put enough in the bank to pay his monthly bills and hid the rest. His wife was the same way and she worked for a bank! I remember other relatives hiding any extra money they had in mattresses, taped to the creases of the inside of closets etc.

Wow, I did not know about that gold confiscation! :O I know that a lot of people never trusted banks again after the banks failed.

I didn't know that shipping barrels of hand-me-downs existed in the 1900s. I only read of it in the Little House on the Prairie books.

Carlie Wolf
November 15th, 2014, 09:40 PM
I do recall that my grandmother was having a hard time getting the barrels after a while. I remember her talking about having problems and I was pretty young. I think the early 50's. At that point I'm pretty sure that she would send money to her relatives in Newfoundland for them to ship her a barrel to fill. I'm not sure if it was the same one going back and forth LOL. But it stopped pretty soon after that and I don't think she was still doing it in the 60's. She did it for years and years though.

I had never heard about the gold confiscation prior to hearing my Uncle in law talking about it in the mid 60's.

alliek
November 15th, 2014, 09:45 PM
My MIL married very young during the depression to a man who did not treat her well. She had three children and he left her with nothing to live with another woman. She remembers making the children oatmeal and hoping they would not eat it all so she could eat. Very sad. She lost her children to her ex husband when she signed them away after a serious car accident left her hospitalized for a month. I think today she could have fought that but she was very young and uneducated. Her children were told she had died and she did not see her daughter again until she was a grown woman, her son, never. She married my FIL and had four children .Needless to say, she was a very generous person with food, anyone who was in the least way needy was helped by her. She was an excellent cook and baker, she could make something delicious out of nothing. She adored her children and home and was grateful for the least little kindness shown her. She passed away at 57, way to soon. I miss her dearly. She knew of my last pregnancy and said she wished I had a little girl, which I did. She died before my DD was born. We named her after her grandmothers. Maybe I strayed off the subject somewhat,but those times were difficult. The social systems were not in place to help single mothers. She had to leave her children with friends to find work to support herself. Society looked down on her even though she was a good and kind person. We have come a long way and for that I am grateful and also for the example of a very courageous woman in my life.

Quiltfreestyle
November 15th, 2014, 10:12 PM
Alliek it sounds like your MIL was a wonderful person! I agree, the systems weren't in place to protect single moms back then. Even in the 50's when my mom left our father, she was looked down on because she was divorced. My father was an extremely abusive alcoholic. When he started in on me (I was 2 years old) she packed me & my baby sister up, cleaned out the bank account & drove to California. My grandmother came with her to take care of us while she worked. At least I have no bad memories of that time. We grew up on a tight budget but we were happy.
One funny memory was of eating ketchup spaghetti. She would heat up ketchup & put in some spices & pour it over pasta. It was cheap & filling. We used to have spaghetti sucking races, very very funny...

kimsophia
November 15th, 2014, 11:52 PM
My MIL married very young during the depression to a man who did not treat her well. She had three children and he left her with nothing to live with another woman. She remembers making the children oatmeal and hoping they would not eat it all so she could eat. Very sad. She lost her children to her ex husband when she signed them away after a serious car accident left her hospitalized for a month. I think today she could have fought that but she was very young and uneducated. Her children were told she had died and she did not see her daughter again until she was a grown woman, her son, never. She married my FIL and had four children .Needless to say, she was a very generous person with food, anyone who was in the least way needy was helped by her. She was an excellent cook and baker, she could make something delicious out of nothing. She adored her children and home and was grateful for the least little kindness shown her. She passed away at 57, way to soon. I miss her dearly. She knew of my last pregnancy and said she wished I had a little girl, which I did. She died before my DD was born. We named her after her grandmothers. Maybe I strayed off the subject somewhat,but those times were difficult. The social systems were not in place to help single mothers. She had to leave her children with friends to find work to support herself. Society looked down on her even though she was a good and kind person. We have come a long way and for that I am grateful and also for the example of a very courageous woman in my life.

I don't consider it off topic at all. And how wonderful that she turned her hardship to becoming such a compassionate person. And shame on anyone who looked the less of her. I see movies of how harshly neighbors were to each other. And some still are. It makes me feel mad!

kimsophia
November 15th, 2014, 11:56 PM
I have a friend whose mom STILL makes ketchup spaghetti! lol I was told that people would eat the free ketchup and saltine crackers as sandwiches with a cup of coffee in diners. So sad.

laura44
November 16th, 2014, 12:24 AM
I can remember my 97 year old grandma telling me how her husband
left her with 4 young children. She would tell me, "the children would say, mama, mama,
I'm hungry! And I felt so bad because I had no food to give them"
And then she would cry, all those years later. She couldn't remember what she
did the day before, but she remembered that all her life.

shirleyknot
November 16th, 2014, 04:58 PM
Those baby food jars were often used as home made jelly jars, sealed with paraffin. I've filled many of them. Jelly was made from wild raspberries, blackberries and sometimes strawberries found in road ditches and pastures.

Carlie Wolf
November 16th, 2014, 06:07 PM
Alliek, that really is sad. I'm so sorry to hear this.

MayinJerset
November 16th, 2014, 07:46 PM
My parents were born in the 19teens and married in 1933. My father's mother had recently passed away so the newlyweds moved in with my father's father, and also living there was my father's younger brother. Not the honeymoon most of us had but that was the norm during those days. My grandfather was very enterprising and worked extra jobs so he could buy his own 3 family row house, family lived on one floor and other 2 floors were rented to pay for the mortgage. Grandpa was very careful about expenses, I remember my mother saying he got upset if anyone left the lights on. They were lucky to have electric lights because grandpa removed the gas lights from his building and had electricity installed. He was a make do person and did all the house repairs himself. My father complained once because growing up they never had butter.

Social life was limited to visiting family for coffee and maybe as a big treat buying some store bought buns to bring with you. No one had enough money to make meals for visitors but if you happened by when they were having dinner they threw another potato in the pot to stretch whatever food there was. My father worked in the New York City garment trade and earned $10 a week, that was only when he worked, no paid sick days, holidays or vacation days and work weeks was usually 6 days with Sundays off. No such things a health benfits, if you couldn't afford a doctor you went to the clinic and waited your turn. It was rare if anyone owned a car but most of our families lived in the same neighborhood so walking or taking the trolley or subway was how they traveled. Children went to school until they were 12 and then they got jobs to help the family to buy food, clothes and a place to live. My mother at age 12 worked in a local laundry. So times those Good Old Days weren't so Good at All.

kimsophia
November 16th, 2014, 08:36 PM
[I]those Good Old Days weren't so Good at All.[/I

I don't recall any nostalgia for the past from my relatives, either! And medicine is so much more advanced today than then.

My grandma only got to the 4th grade and her dad took her out of school to work at home. He said the girls don't need education. My own grandpa wasn't very nice. I guess "The Lone Ranger" came on the radio after supper, because my aunt was making too much noise washing the dishes for him to hear and he threatened to hit her with a piece of firewood, but they talked him out of it. I never wanted to get married because all my female relatives were so freed when their fathers or husbands finally died. They didn't have many nice stories to tell about the men.

alliek
November 16th, 2014, 09:20 PM
Alliek, that really is sad. I'm so sorry to hear this. Yes it was sad, but she was such a great person that I don't remember her with "sadness" but with such admiration for her courage. She had to overcome losing her family,rehabilitating after the accident, and the prejudice of her family who turned their backs on her after her first marriage, the reason: He was Catholic, she was Lutheran!!! Yes the prejudices of that era were strong and MANY. Thank you for your sympathy though. She was an example to me when I first married and still is today.

Sylvia H
November 17th, 2014, 02:51 AM
My mother also went through the depression, but her reaction was opposite of most. She always wanted to buy whatever was the most expensive, and she would usually brag about how much she spent on her purchases. If we had steak or shrimp, she would tell us how much each bite cost! I guess she was relieved that she finally had enough money that she didn't have to do without anything.

kimsophia
November 17th, 2014, 05:34 AM
My mother also went through the depression, but her reaction was opposite of most. She always wanted to buy whatever was the most expensive, and she would usually brag about how much she spent on her purchases. If we had steak or shrimp, she would tell us how much each bite cost! I guess she was relieved that she finally had enough money that she didn't have to do without anything.

My mom went overboard with shopping, but not until my dad had died and she inherited his money. Her shopping trips were "adventures" where she played the part of "the big cheese". She did buy a great amount of antiques, at least, but also clothes, shoes and wigs. One bedroom in the house was devoted to overflow clothes racks. If she hadn't died I really don't know if she wouldn't have become a problematic hoarder.

She also would impulse buy. One funny thing in our pantry cupboards were an entire case of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, which was on sale. Well, we were Lutheran, so I suppose we would have been set for casseroles for life....lolol

MayinJerset
November 17th, 2014, 11:03 AM
"She also would impulse buy. One funny thing in our pantry cupboards were an entire case of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup, which was on sale. Well, we were Lutheran, so I suppose we would have been set for casseroles for life....lolol "

This made me laugh as I picture rows of the soup on the pantry shelves.

Did know many people of my parents age who bought like her and many others who skimped and made do even when things got better. My parents were middle of the row but one thing my mother passed down was that you need to save a bit every paycheck, never know when times change for the worse.